Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Active and Catalyst - Activyst!

Do you ever meet those people and think, “Wow! Someday they are going to do something great!” Well, this wasn’t my first impression of my freshman roommate. Sorry Leigh, but it wasn’t; she could definitely say the same for me. Eighteen-year-old girls sometimes need some shell breaking! Leigh and I never had truly philosophical talks in our dorm room, unless it was comparing Philosophy 101 homework (Gonzaga required 4 years of Philosophy classes). We did our homework, played our sports, and went to class. We also went to basketball games, parties, and fun things on campus - typical college freshman stuff. Leigh and I met in August 2000, she was on the tennis team at GU and I was on the golf team. We were friends, but not best friends. We lived together again sophomore year, but after I studied abroad junior year, we drifted apart, as you kind of do in college, but were still close enough on small campus. Years later, Leigh called me up when she was visiting Seattle – married to a fellow Gonzaga Bulldog and finishing up her MBA in Ohio, they were looking for a new city to settle down. As we chatted, sipped our beers, and caught up on life over the past decade, Leigh told me about this new business plan she and her tennis teammate, Katie, were working on. I was immediately intrigued. The concept was fairly simple: sell bags using material made by women in other countries and use a portion of the profit to help girls in those countries play sports. I knew with the hard work, talent, and energy these girls had, the company would become a success. I was lucky enough to watch from its concept stage to the company launch. The information below is from their website and their Indiegogo fundraising page. Check them out!

Activyst is a combination of two words we love - active and catalyst - because when girls are active, it's a catalyst for change in their lives. Our mission is to change the world by helping girls play sports. We do this by creating bold, functional athletic bags that generate funding for girls’ sports organizations worldwide.
We're on a mission: to help more girls play sports by creating bold, functional athletic bags for women. Many girls in the word are suffering – teen pregnancy, abuse, chronic disease, illiteracy, depression, and the list goes on.
We’ve spent over a year designing and prototyping to create a bag that meets active women's needs. Collaborating with a former designer for Betsey Johnson and a bagmaker who spent decades at Quiksilver, we focused on functionality and simple, yet fashion-forward design.
Our first line is made of macen, used in Activyst’s birthplace of Nicaragua for everything from hammocks, to harvesting coffee, to transporting goods. It's the "material of the people" and we're excited to use it in a new way. Activyst bags are durable, waterproof, have awesome features, and are pretty cute to boot, so you can rock them during all adventures in your everyday active life.
Through bag sales, we fund non-profits providing sports opportunities to girls worldwide. Having worked in international development, we know that each non-profit partner will have unique needs and goals; so we structure bag sales around meeting those specific needs. Their first two projects will partner with Soccer Without Borders.
In other exciting Activyst news, they have just announced their CUSTOM BAG CONTEST. If 4 people from a community (gym/yoga studio/run club/tri team/etc) buy a bag, they will be entered into the contest. The winning team will get to help design a new bag (fabric, color, print) and the bags are named after your studio or team. Activyst will even sell a limited edition of your line on their website. You can read more about it here. I've already entered my triathlon team into the contest and am keeping my fingers crossed for a PauoleSport team bag.
Make sure you check them out, especially the touching video on their Indiegogo site. I just watched it for the at least the tenth time and I still love it. I think sometimes we forget how lucky we are to grow up in an environment where it's common and encouraged to run around and play or bike or swim with friends - girlfriends. I'm surrounded by athletic women everywhere - at work, my closest friends, teammates, my family, my college roommates. And because of that, I believe, I live a more fulfilling and inspired life. Please help spread the word about this budding new company. You can visit their website here.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Half the Distance - 3 Race Reviews

“Half the distance, twice the fun.” That’s often the description of a half marathon. But the cliche I need to use to describe my running-capades so far this year, is “3rd time’s a charm.”
Like many, I found triathlon through my running background. Years ago, my only training was pounding pavement and an occasional spin class. I’d sign up for every marathon within a 50 mile radius and half marathons were always social, enjoyable, tempo runs with friends. But goals have changed and I often find it difficult to toe the line “just for fun.” It’s also hard to plan quality running races around long triathlon training weekends.  So I knew that if I wanted to try and lay down a good 13.1, it had to happen pretty early in the year. The last time I ran a respectable half marathon was two years ago. It was March 2011 and in the words of Jesse Thomas, “I was on FIYAAAH!” In basically a five month span, I set personal bests in the marathon, half marathon, half Ironman, and Ironman. Needless to say, my half mary PR had become a little stale, so in a quest to dust off my 13.1 PR this year, I signed up for three races between December and March. Below, I’ve recapped all of them.
December 2012: Does a Runner sh*t on the Strip? Rock andRoll Las Vegas ½ Marathon 1:48:01 The title probably gives it away. I ran the Rock and Roll 1/2 marathon in Las Vegas and, as you can imagine, it was an afternoon of gastric distress. I’ve always prided myself on having a cast Iron gut and my ability to eat almost anything and still be able to go out for a hard workout. But it was a combination of flu-like symptoms I had that week (more like that month) and whatever they pump through the streets of Las Vegas. I ended up running a 1:48 with a new PR (PW) of 7 porta-potty stops! Luckily, I did my first half marathon in 1998, so my personal worst holds strong with a time I set when I was a teenager and ran in Umbros and a cotton t-shirt. As crappy (literally) as it was to run as far off from my potential, it was no big deal coming in a bit later than I normally do. Besides, it was a fun trip with my friends and my boyfriend ran his first full (non-Ironman) marathon, so that was exciting.
Race review: Typical RNR event – great logistics (running down the Las Vegas strip at night!), tons of people, big expo, great support, Sydnie and I even met Meb, but these events are expensive! I have a hard time stomaching (pun intended) running a half marathon that costs more than $150 – ouch! I can’t say I’d run this one again, for that reason alone. I'll pay that much for a full marathon or a triathlon, but not a half marathon.
February 2013: Go Fast and Take Chances (just like the Oiselle motto) Kaiser Permanente ½ Marathon SF 1:33:09 Gerry (the BF) and I booked our flights to SF the night we got back from Vegas. There were deals on Alaska Airlines, he was amped up on running, and I was seeking a bit of redemption at the half marathon distance. We had some friends to visit and also wanted to run the Kaiser Half the first weekend of February. As things got sorted out in the purchase of my condo, I found out moving day would be February 1 and we’d fly out at 7am on February 2…oh, man. Needless to say, the 48 hours leading up to race day included me carrying dozens of boxes, climbing several flights of stairs, about a thousand squats, one early ass flight, and a lot of added stress. If this race had been an “A” race, I would have been freaking the F out. Luckily, I was taking the approach of, “just see what kind of race you can put together and hang on as long as you can.” Gerry and our friend Tom offered to pace me to mile 8, since neither signed up on time. Through the first 8 miles, we pushed it and I was well on pace to run sub-1:30, but when the guys left my side, I couldn’t maintain the pace. I loafed in the last five miles and finished in 1:33:09. It wasn’t a total crash and burn and I’m glad I took the risk in the first half to try and really push it. The rest of the weekend was a lot of fun catching up with our friends in the Bay area and basking in some Northern Cal rays (our Seattle friends were jealous).
Race Review: If I need a trip back to SF in early February again next year, I will definitely run this race. It’s a net downhill, which can beat up your legs in the last miles, but with good fitness, it could also lead to a fast race. Very well organized start line and finish line, strong field, good price.
March 2013: Don’t Give Up and Don’t Let Up Lake Sammamish ½Marathon 1:26:05. 5th OA Woman The motto that got me through Ironman CdA in 2011 kept me focused through this race. Before Saturday, I went into this race just hoping to run under 90 minutes and put together a solid half marathon that would boost my confidence before Oceanside 70.3. But really, I wanted a shiny new PR. I know most people don’t care or don’t (or at least shouldn’t) judge my merit by my running times. But it’s nice to etch my own little piece of running history.
I felt surprisingly good the whole run and as the miles ticked by I knew I’d have a shot at setting a new PR. I was pleased to see several Oiselle singlets out on the course, as well as the friendliest volunteers from my triathlon team at the first water stop. My first mile was around 6:20 (too fast), then I held steady around 6:25-6:35 for the next 8, miles 10-12 I let up a little (6:42), and then finished with a 6:35 mile. Coach K texted me before the race and reminded me to work hard from start to finish. With that in mind, I knew I had to stay strong and no letting up until the end. The last 1.5 miles were pretty annoying, as they wound around the parking lot of Sammamish State Park (check out my friend Meghan's RR here to see the design of the last mile) and you couldn’t see the finish chute until the last 50 meters, but overall I really liked the course. I met up with Gerry and some other friends at the finish; he had to jog it in with an injury, despite being pretty fit right now. As we walked toward the parking lot, I started lamenting about having no top end in the last couple miles, but quickly shut myself up realizing I’m training for an Ironman, I haven't been running all that much, and I should really just enjoy the moment.
Race Review: A great local race. Small field (capped at 2000, because it’s on a trail), yet still pretty good competition. There weren’t a lot of turns on the course until the last mile and even though it was mostly on trails it didn’t get boring. The start line was a little disorganized, but all other logistics ran smoothly. Good price and nice finish area.
I am pretty happy with this new record for me to chase and bar that I’ve set for myself. Seeing the clock at the finish line gave me a giant smile. It was difficult last year feeling like I had perhaps reached my running potential, but now I’m excited to again try and push these limits and find out what the rest of the year will bring.

Also as a side note, in 2009 and 2010 I dated 2 different guys and both years I ran half mary PRs I got dumped a couple days later! I thought two times in a row was a trend and even called it the "curse of the half marathon." But I don't think I have anything to worry about with Gerry. Everything seems fine and in the past 24 hours we've both made obscure references to the movie "Caddyshack" and I'm reminded how weirdly compatible we are. I think I've broken my curse.

Friday, March 8, 2013

March Madness and the Love of Sport

About a year ago, I posted why I get so sentimental this time of year. I work for the University of Washington and run into college kids daily, but it’s the month of March that I get so nostalgic for my years at Gonzaga and the running partners I met over a decade ago. It’s the month of March that college basketball is highlighted across the country and I truly miss shuffling into an arena, screaming for 40 minutes, going out to parties, drinking from kegs of Kokanee (Spokane is close to Canada), wearing the same Kennel Club shirt as everyone else at school twice a week, and being obsessed with Gonzaga basketball.

It was a big week in college hoops. Gonzaga reached the #1ranking in the AP poll and ESPN poll for the first time in the school’shistory. And while the polls don’t matter enough to actually win games, it’s a significant moment not only for the basketball program, current students, but also the alumni. There was an excellent article written here about the consistency and toughness Gonzaga has endured for over a decade. In 1999 they gained the national spotlight, but they didn’t stop there. They’ve won conference titles and made NCAA tournament appearances year after year. When I was a freshman at GU, the basketball arena had bleachers and it was just a little bigger than my high school gym. The basketball team’s weight room was not only the same weight room as the women’s golf team (on which I played…yes, that’s correct), but the same weight room as every student on campus.

I’m not going to go into some philosophical rant about how Gonzaga made me a better athlete, though the Jesuits sure did like to make sure we had our share of Philosophy classes. But following this team for over a decade makes me appreciate a Cinderella story. I like the fact that their best player chose to redshirt a year to work on his strength and skills and that another one of their starters joined the team as a walk-on. Following Gonzaga basketball makes me respect the work ethic instilled in athletes that don’t have the fanciest gear or the biggest named coaches, but can still rise to the top if they put in the time and are supported by the community that surrounds them.

Best of luck to the Gonzaga basketball team and fans this tournament season! Thank you for the distraction from the sports and training that consume my life the other months of the year. And thank you to all college athletes for providing new excitement and enthusiasm for a sport you love! Go Zags!

Pictures from @GonzagaU Twitter account from top clockwise: #1 outlined at Desmet Hall,
2012-13 Men's team, Kennel Club, outside the student center enjoying #1 cake